Well, tonight kicks off the Finals of American Idol Season 11, and I have to admit, I have no idea what to expect this season. During the Semifinals, no one took hold of me, put down a performance that would be remembered for the right reasons. I hear the theme for this week, and I am immediately confused. After years of hearing the judges and producers say the ladies should stay away from singing the songs of certain divas, they are making it mandatory this week. I'd question why, but understand they are struggling a bit in the ratings, and looking to take advantage of Ms. Houston's recent passing. I just think it is a shame. Why not let the boys take on the Houston catalog, and ask the ladies to sing Luther Vandross?
When the show began, we were backstage with Crusty and the kids, and then joined by the tiresome trio of judges. Crusty tells us "This is American Idol," and we know another season is off and running. They will be singing the songs of Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder. The ladies are required to do what has been off-limits for seasons, the songs of the late Ms. Houston. The guys must tackle the music that is a few decades older. It seems the girl and the guy who gets the fewest votes will be on the block, and the judges will decide who is going home.
Mary J. Blige joins Jimmy Iovine to advise the contestants this week, and sh e is looking as beautiful as she always does. The first up is Joshua Ledet, of Westlake, CA, singing I Wish, Stevie's 1976 hit from the immortal Songs In The Key Of Life. I must say, he does surprise me a bit, and lays it down. That is a great way to start off the show. Elise Testone, Charleston, SC, is up next, the first young lady being thrown to the wolves. In a bit of a last-minute switch, she is singing Whitney's 1990 hit, I'm You Baby Tonight. She struggled a bit during rehearsals, causing both Mary J and Jimmy I to worry. I think she did a great job, all things considered. There is still such quality in her voice,
Jermaine Jones, Pine Hill, NJ, is picking up Knocks Me Off My Feet, another song off Stevie's Songs In The Key Of Life. His voice is a good fit for the song, but there is a certain lazy quality to the song, and sometimes wondered just off pitch. The judges are more kind than I am. Wild Card entry Erika Van Pelt, the contestant from South Kingstown, RI, is ready to go. She will be singing I Believe In You And Me, Whitney's smash hit from 1997. Once again, Jimmy I and Mary J love her, but are a bit frightened of a possible crash and burn. She does a fine job with the song, although I will tell you I was expecting a bit more. No one should be worried, for the judges are falling all over themselves, telling her how much they love her voice. Colton Dixon, Murfreesboro, TN, is singing Lately, the 1981 hits off the album Hotter Than July. I will admit, I am immediately worried for him. This doesn't seem to be a perfect fit for him. At first, Mary J and Jimmy I are not impressed, but soon they are liking it. He comes out and lays it out there. I thought he was fantastic. He had a Rufus Wainwright quality to the song.
Back on the distaff side, we have Shannon Magrane, of Tampa, FL, to perform Whitney's 1993 hit, I Have Nothing, from The Bodyguard soundtrack. With some coaching, Mary J and Jimmy I were liking it, but on the stage, it was a bit of a train wreck. There were lost lyrics and missed notes. The judges try to be kind, but identify there were many problems, and it looked like nerves were the winner tonight. Deandre Brackensick, from San Jose, CA, sits in the chair and talks to Crusty, with his hair tied back to tonight. He will be singing Master Blaster (Jammin'), the 1980 hit off Hotter Than July. Mary J gives some good advice, and we hope he listens. He gives the song a strong island reggae feel, and stayed away from the falsetto. I hate to say it, but he did a great job with it, and made the 30-year-old song feel current. The judges also loved him, which makes me a bit nervous. We are told Brandon, Skylar Laine, hailing from Brandon, MS, will be up next. During the commercial, I wonder if she will tackle I Will Always Love You, and bring it back to the Country style it grew out of. I quickly discover I am wrong. She will be singing Ms Houston's 1987 hit, Where Will Broken Hearts Go. Mary J gives her a note or two, and thinks she will be great. When she takes to the stage, she turns up the volume to 12, and lets loose. I never heard the moment that Mary J gave her, that quiet question being asked.
Well, Crusty and Heejun Han, the native of Flushing, NY, begin with a stand-up act, complete with visual aides. He will sing All In Love Is Fair, from the great album Innervisions. He takes the song on a sluggish ride, and drifts in and out of tune throughout the performances. It seems, however, that the judges are loving him, and not really noticing the issues. McKinney, TX, is home for Hollie Cavanagh, who is planning to sing All The Man That I Need, the 1990 hit. She wailed away, in the diva tradition, and the judges loved it. Frankly, I thought it was good, for a big-voiced karaoke competition. I thought the goal was to look for something more. Another entry in the Wild Card sweepstakes is coming up. Jeremy Rosado, of Valrico, FL, seems to have taken the time to compose himself, and be ready to sing Ribbons In The Sky, the 1982 hit from the album Original Musiquarium. It doesn't start well, with some issues with tone and with tempo. But he does pull it back together, and ends rather well. It is a bit of a shame, for I felt this was one of the more timeless Stevie songs picked tonight. The judges love him, but not this performance.
The huge voice of Jessica Sanchez, from San Diego, CA, who was made for this night. She will be taking on I Will Always Love You, the song written by the amazing Dolly Parton. The song was part of the soundtrack for The Bodyguard, and I am not surprised in the slightest that Jessica is singing it. Mary J even squeals a bit in rehearsal, so you know this will bring down the house. They break out the smoke and the fans, and Jessica does a great imitation of the late Houston, and the judges are all over her. I agree she sang it beautifully, but I thought the point was to find an original talent? To close out the show, we have Phillip Phillips, the guy from Leesburg, GA, who is taking on Superstition, Stevie's big hit in 1972 from the album Talking Book. Phillip explains he will be He sounds exactly as I fear he will, and the judges fall all over him as I knew they would. To me, he remains Dave Matthews seen through a muddy filter.
At the end of the show, we get a recap, and I have to figure that there will be two kids in trouble tomorrow night, and I think it will be either Jermaine Jones or Jeremy Rosado for the boys, and Shannon and Erika for the girls. I have little doubt whoever goes up, it will be a boy leaving first, for the judges and producers are itching for a girl to win this season. Crusty surprises us by asking the judges who stands out, and who might be in trouble. Randy says it was Jessica and Joshua who stood out, and refused to answer the other. Jennifer things Shannon is in trouble, and that the girls were better than the boys. Steven was the only one to really answer the question, and said Shannon and Elise might be in trouble, and that Jessica stole the show. Guess we will just have to wait for the results Thursday night at 8PM on Fox.